Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Louisiana politicians like to spin a good yarn. It’s in their DNA. And The Times-Picayune’s James Gill isn’t afraid to call them on it, as he did Sunday in a column titled “Who is this man former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer is describing?” Gill brings Roemer to task for claims the former governor made at an event in Iowa hosted by the rightwing Faith and Freedom Coalition. Roemer spoon-fed the crowd a fanciful “up-from-hardscrabble” biography that included a reference to his childhood as “a church-going Methodist boy from a cotton field in north Louisiana.” Gill points out that the cotton field was a 2,000-acre, family-owned cotton plantation. Roemer also took credit for breaking teacher tenure — a bold, crowd-pleaser that, as Gill points out, is patently untrue: Teachers in Louisiana still enjoy tenure. Roemer said all the right things to the conservative crowd, although much of it was left of the truth.

Already the target of a lawsuit by some Whitney Bank shareholders, the planned merger of Mississippi-based Hancock Bank with New Orleans’ Whitney — the largest Louisiana-based bank — became more troublesome recently when a financial watchdog group accused Hancock of discriminatory loan practices. Inner City Press/Fair Finance Watch sent a letter opposing the merger to the Federal Reserve, accusing Hancock of effectively favoring white loan applicants over blacks and Hispanics, pointing to six Hancock markets on the Gulf Coast with notable racial gaps in lending. In Hancock’s hometown of Gulfport, Miss., for example, the bank denied conventional home loans to black and Hispanic applicants twice as often as those of white applicants, Fair Finance Watch says. A Hancock spokesman, while not exactly disputing the accusation, says Fair Finance’s complaint “provides a very limited view of covered loans or conditions such as factors related to creditworthiness.”

If the accusations are correct, state Rep. Rickey Hardy was right: Lawrence Richard is “the Grinch who stole Mardi Gras.” Hardy led a blue krewe of jilted revelers to the Lafayette Police Department Mardi Gras day to accuse Richard of a carnival caper: accepting hundreds of dollars for beads, dresses and throws on their behalf and failing to register them to participate in the Independent Parade Tuesday. The parade’s organizer told The Daily Advertiser he never received any paperwork or fees from Richard, who could not be reached for comment. This is evidently not a precedent for the alleged Fat Tuesday filcher: Hardy says he’s gotten similar complaints about Richard taking advantage of credulous krewes.

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